It’s chicken-butchering time again …
This is a part of farming that is definitely hard work. It starts a day or so before the actual butcher date with the set-up of the equipment: a kill site, a scalder, a plucker, an evisceration table and some large chill tanks.
Most of this is stored in a trailer that is transported from farm to farm. Enabling small farmers to use equipment that they alone wouldn’t be able to, justifies the cost of purchasing.
But by sharing the cost and use, we all benefit from it. We also help each other out with the actual butchering. As they say, “Many hands make light work.”
This year, along with the usual work of preparation for the butcher, we had another worry at the back of our minds … bears! Normally, we aren’t bothered too much with w
ildlife , but this year seems to be different.
We have been visited, three to four times in a two-week period. Usually, they come between 10:30 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Our dog, Schwartz, is still under a year old and so untested in the case of most wildlife. He has, in the past, alerted us to the presence of deer, porcupines, wolves and dogs.
But, dangerous or not, he had the same warning bark for them all. The only one that seemed more intense was when the wolf was here. So when he started to bark differently, late one night, I decided to have a look to see what was upsetting him.
After moving from window to window, trying to get a view of what was out there, I finally saw something … nothing like a grizzly to get your adrenaline going. And it was heading toward the barnyard.
Our birds are closed in at night for such occasions as these, but our pigs only have small shelters. And they would make a tasty meal for a bear if it were so inclined.
So we try and scare them away before they get any ideas. This means jumping into the truck and driving around the place, honking and generally making noise. Usually, the bears don’t stick around. This one didn’t that night.
But the following week, after the market, we were just in from doing chores. Schwartz was still on his dog run (he has a thing for geese) when he started to bark his “bear bark”.
I went to the window to see what was going on, and no sooner was I there when a small bear came running around some trees. It was followed by a larger bear.
They seemed to be together, so I can only assume that it was a Mom and a year-old cub. They would have run right down where Schwartz was tied, but his barking deterred them.
They detoured around the house and headed straight for the barnyard. Al jumped into the truck and raced around to meet them there. I don’t think I will ever forget watching the bears charge at the goose pen and then veering away at the last second as the truck came toward them.
I don’t think the geese will forget, either. They were actually outside the barn at the time.
In the following few days we were visited again, but at much-later hours. The bears didn’t actually do any damage, although one did leave a calling card, so to speak. But just having them there caused some concern.
So, when we were setting up to butcher, not five days from the last visit, I wondered if we would have any unexpected company.
The day started out to be sunny and clear and looked like it would turn into another hot day. Knowing that smells draw wildlife, I was hoping to be able to spray down the butcher site to at least dilute the smell of blood.
But near the end of our work, we were rained on quite heavily, twice. And for that I am thankful as we haven’t heard a peep out of Schwartz, at all.